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Sunscreens protect against wrinkles, study suggests

Consumer Reports News: June 04, 2013 12:08 PM

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Researchers have long known that UV rays cause skin aging, and they've suspected that sunscreens could help prevent that. Now they have better, though not conclusive, evidence that's the case.

Researchers in Australia, which has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, divided 903 mostly fair-skinned volunteers younger than 55 to one of four groups. One group was told to apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 15+ sunscreen to their head, neck, arms, and hands every day, and to also take a daily 30 mg beta-carotene supplement. Another group used sunscreen daily, and was given a daily placebo instead of beta-carotene. A third group used sunscreen at their discretion, along with daily beta-carotene. And a fourth group used sunscreen at their discretion, and was given a daily placebo instead of beta-carotene. The investigators also took silicone impressions of the participants' hands to check for microscopic signs of skin aging at the beginning of the study, and 4.5 years later.

They concluded that people in the daily-use groups, who reported applying sunscreen at least 3 to 4 days each week, were 24 percent less likely to show signs of skin aging than those in the discretionary-use groups. Beta-carotene supplementation had no overall effect on skin aging, although the researchers said that further study is required to definitively exclude potential benefit or harm from the supplement. The study appears in the June 4th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Bottom line: There was a lot of variability in the study's results, so it's possible that the apparent benefit of daily sunscreen use was due to chance. Still, the study strengthens the argument that regularly using sunscreen can help protect against aging skin caused by UV rays, which can also contribute to skin cancer.

Check out our sunscreen buying guide and Ratings to see the products we recommend, as well as our advice on how to use sunscreen and what other protective measures you should take, such as reducing time spent in the sun and wearing protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.

Source
Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging. A Randomized Trial [Annals of Internal Medicine]

Doug Podolsky

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